The “grace of God” is foundational to the Christian faith. So why is there so much confusion regarding its meaning? Here’s an exercise to prove my point. Ask ten of your friends, separately, what grace means to them. How many different answers did you get? How many come close to the Biblical definition?

If your experience is like mine, many of the answers you receive will be limited to some work of God. Most Christians in America equate God’s grace with Jesus’ death for their salvation. This is what they have been taught or allowed to believe.

From the Outline of Biblical Usage (https://www.blueletterbible.org), we find that the charis of God is “the merciful kindness [goodwill and favor] by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”

Did you get all that?

Grace is not an act of God, nor is it an event. Talking about grace in this way diminishes its meaning – and our understanding of God. Grace is a facet of God’s nature. God is gracious. Those that enter His presence are blessed by His gracious character.

I have heard someone say that grace is the disposition of God toward mankind. This sounds right to me. They go on to say that the grace of God produces things that are beneficial to man: justification, salvation, gifts, fruit, etc. It is important to remember that these benefits are not grace, but its products.

Furthermore, most have been taught or left to believe that grace and its benefits are free. This is wrong on two accounts. First, grace, as a nature of God, cannot be labeled as free (or costly). The Bible never speaks of grace in this way.

Some will acquiesce to this point, and move to argue that the benefits of grace are free. There are several passages they might reference. Let’s start with a couple from Romans.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… Romans 3:23-24

Notice that this passage does not say that grace is freely given. We are justified freely. Grace appropriates that justification. That doesn’t mean grace is free. In fact, being justified freely does not necessarily mean that justification is free. In our second passage, we find another gift.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17

The gift is righteousness, not grace. Paul could have easily reference grace as a gift – “the gift of grace and righteousness.” The fact that he didn’t is significant. You will also notice that grace and righteousness must be received. This is a critical point.

Consider this simple illustration. Imagine two men, one with a chest of gold and the other with his arms filled with his favorite toys and collectibles. The man with the chest freely offers it to the other; it is a gift. What must the man do with his toys and collectibles to receive the offered riches? He must let go of all he has in his possession. Receiving the gift costs him everything he holds dear.

Another verse that tends to confuse us is Ephesians 2:8-9.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Many read this verse and assume (because they have been taught or left to believe) that grace is the gift. Reading carefully, we discover faith is the gift. As with justification and righteousness, grace is something more. It is “the merciful kindness, by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ” – in this case, to save us.

God desires that all people be saved. His grace for justification, righteousness, and salvation naturally (for God) flows out of that desire. However, the Scriptures make it abundantly clear that these things, though freely given gifts, are not without cost to those that would receive them.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:35

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Matthew 13:44

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:33

Regarding the Luke passages, there are a growing number of Christians that have accepted a tiered approach to Christianity. They separate being saved from being a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ. This is accommodating to our carnal nature and eternally dangerous.

There are only two paths – the broad one that leads to destruction, and the difficult one that leads to eternal life. There is not a third path that allows someone to keep their old life and enjoy God’s great and wonderful promises. This is perhaps the greatest deception of our day.

Eventually, we must come to grips with the truth: The conditions for receiving the grace of God and its many benefits are costly. To hide this fact is, at best, simply confusing. In the worst case, it is deception.

Ironically, withholding the truth inhibits potential followers of Jesus Christ from receiving the very grace that empowers them to meet the conditions and passionately pay the necessary cost. When we lay hold of God’s grace, we open a channel that provides all the grace we need to walk after the Spirit in obedience to the Lord.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

Working out our salvation comes down to our choosing to join God in the good work He has created us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). When we choose to believe and obey, we step into the necessary flow of God’s sufficient grace (1Corinthians 15:10; 2Corinthians 12:9).

In closing, a word for leaders: How will those in your spheres of influence know to choose, if there is no one to teach them about the conditions and costs of God’s amazing grace? Can you bear to leave them in this state?

God bless you with grace to discover and share the gospel of His kingdom.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

P.S. For those of you concerned about the potential for legalism in this: We must always remember (and remind others) that our dependence is on God’s grace for God’s work. We are mere participants – as God’s instruments of righteousness. There is absolutely nothing here in which we can boast.